Rep. Darrell Issa, one of a handful (but a growing handful) of members who post lists of their earmark requests online has sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to fellow House members asking that they do the same (full text, plus a release, is here:
An effort is reportedly underway on the Appropriations Committee to hide Member “earmark” requests from public scrutiny. According to the Associated Press, “Democrats are following an order by the House Appropriations Committee chairman to keep the bills free of such earmarks until it is too late for critics to effectively challenge them.” While the leadership of the Appropriations Committee forges a procedural shield to protect wasteful spending and thwart public scrutiny of projects, I urge you to counter this wrong-headed approach and join the handful of Members who have made a voluntary public disclosure on their websites of all FY 2008 project requests made to the Appropriations Committee.
The “Duke” Cunningham earmark-bribery scandal brought new scrutiny to Members of Congress and, specifically, to the Appropriations process. Constituents want to know that the project requests we make benefit our communities, our country, and don’t line our own pockets.
As a San Diego editorial page recently wrote, “pork is in the eye of the beholder, and any reasonable requests that are going to improve infrastructure, beaches, law enforcement and water supply and quality for San Diego and Riverside counties sound good to us. What’s important is that voters know just who their congressmen are lobbying for, whether it’s local concerns or defense contractors. No more ‘Duke Stirs.’”
While the Appropriations Committee may continue to protect the secrecy of Member project requests, the voluntary disclosure of project requests by Members increases transparency and is a step toward restoring public confidence in the House of Representatives.
Because of the example he’s already set (2007 wasn’t the first time he posted an earmark list; he is also, as far as I know, the only member of Congress to make his personal financial disclosure form available on his Web site), Issa’s call for greater transparency from his colleagues should be heeded.
And to echo and amplify one of his points — we want to have confidence in our elected officials. Issa is giving them an easy first step to take in order to begin restoring it.